Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Johanna S. Hunsaker, PhD, Director; John Chamley, EdD; Edward Kujawa Jr., PhD


alternative graduate programs, higher education, gender, graduate students, organizational structure


The purpose of the study was to explore the design and initiation of alternative graduate programs and their impact on student needs, to examine the university organizational structure and environment that fosters the development of alternative graduate programs, and to identify the factors graduate students see as important in their choice to attend and participate in an alternative graduate program. The intent of the research was to rank the factors significant in the design of a graduate program to meet the factors meaningful to the student in meeting their needs related to graduate programs. The content of the survey instrument was derived from in-depth interviews with the designers/initiators of the programs, record and document analysis, participant observations, and triangulated through strategies of archival data and a focus group activity. Gender, age, ethnic diversity, work setting, job, and work level were used as the independent variables. Measures of satisfaction on the five identified themes and thirty individual factors were used to identify areas of agreement and disagreement. The five identified themes were career, professional and personal; university as an institution; accessibility; flexibility; and program characteristics, program linkages. The study found that graduate students expressed relatively high agreement on the theme and factors associated with the university as an institution. This was particularly significant when coupled with the variables of age, ethnic diversity, work setting, job and work levels. The theme and factors related to career, professional, and personal was found to be significant by respondents when joined with the variables of age, work setting, job, and work level. The theme of accessibility was found to be impacted by the variables of ethnic diversity and job. In the comparative analysis, each of the identified themes were found to be of similar ranking between the graduate student populations and the designer/initiators who by design of the program, incorporated many of the factors associated with each theme in an attempt to meet the needs of graduate students. The variable of gender interacted significantly (α=.05) with seven of the themes or factors indicating that female and male graduate students vary in their level of importance on what impacts the decision to choose a graduate program. Similarly the variable of ethnic diversity interacted with work level and job categories to further the delineation of identifying specific factors or themes that were of significance to diverse graduate student populations. A further summary of the factors associated with the initiation and design of alternative graduate programs, the reasons for existence of alternative graduate programs, and the relationship between alternative graduate programs and traditional graduate programs was posited. Findings suggested that alternative graduate programs are designed and implemented to meet the needs of graduate students not being met in traditional graduate programs. A further findings suggested that alternative graduate programs are used as a vehicle for change that may impact the design and method of delivery of the traditional graduate programs. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access